WASHINGTON — While uncertainty remains over the outcome of the Afghan election, analysts say the vote is showing some promising trends toward democracy.
Partial results released from the April 5 election point to the likelihood of a runoff contest between candidates Abdullah Abdullah, who received 41.9 percent of the vote, and Ashraf Ghani with 37.6 percent.
Both men are former high ranking members of President Hamid Karzai’s government. A runoff vote would be held after May 28.
Despite threats from the Taliban, which had escalated its campaign of violence to disrupt the election in the weeks prior to the vote, Afghans in the millions stood for hours to cast their ballots.
An image of an Afghan voter who had his index finger cut by the Taliban in the 2009 election went viral when he cast his vote and took a picture of his hand with ink on his finger.
Charles Niemeyer, a professor of war and peace at Georgetown University said the vote clearly demonstrates that Afghans support democracy.
“I would think that this is a tremendous event for the future of the nation of Afghanistan. It does demonstrate the willingness of the people to run the risk and participate in elections,” he said.
Young Afghans vote
A big portion of the voters were young Afghans. Afghanistan has an astonishing number of young people.
According to U.N. estimates, 68 percent of the population in Afghanistan is under 25, which makes Afghanistan one of the youngest countries in the world in terms of population.
Young Afghans like 19-year-old student Fatima Khalil Ahmad, who cast her vote for the first time, said her top priority is the status of women in her society.
“I want my president to give priority to women rights and security,” she said.
Sayed Maisam Ehsani who describes himself as an activist for Afghan youth said his country has made great progress over the past 12 years, but he says the government has failed when it comes to giving young Afghans a voice in the country’s future.
“The next president should be a voice for a disappointed majority and provide them with educational and employment opportunities,” Ehsani said.
A vote for the future
For the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) election day was a much-needed success, analysts say.
While sporadic attacks took place across the country polling stations escaped the violence and security forces provided a relatively safe environment for the people to cast their votes.
Security was tight at most polling stations.
Jason Campbell, an analyst at the Rand Corporation, said above all the election showed a majority of the Afghan people support a future free of the Taliban.
“This was definitely in many ways a referendum showing that the majority of the Afghan people are not going to be intimidated with regards to their future and that there is still a lot of hope in the future for Afghanistan,” Campbell said.
He added that “if you were to sit down and write your best case scenario going into the election, what transpired on the election day was very close to that.”
But Thomas H. Johnson, who directs the cultural and conflict studies program at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey said it would be wrong to say the Taliban does not have deep ties to local communities in parts of Afghanistan.
“I think that we underestimate the actual amount of public support they have in some parts of the country especially down in the south,” Johnson said.
But on the question of the election he said Afghans clearly voted by the millions for a better future despite the problems they live with every day.
“The level of corruption seems to be much lower than 2009. I think this election was different and the Afghan people are starting to understand what representative government is all about,” he said.